صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


5. Zi rah-i-lutf u dildari biya säman-i-kar-i-man
Ki khud ra bi tu samani namibinam, namibinam.
8. Irāki ra ba dargānat rahi binumā ki dar 'alam
Chu a sar-gashta hayrani, namibinam, namibinam.


1. Beloved, aught but Love of thee, I cannot see, I cannot see, And in my heart aught else but thee, I cannot see, I cannot see. Within myself or peace or rest, I cannot find, I cannot find, Pity or kindness meant for me, I cannot see, I cannot see. 3. Out of thy mercy let me see thy face, to heal my malady For any other cure for me, I cannot see, I cannot see.

4. Beloved take my hand in thine, for I have fallen in a sea

Of which the shore, if shore there be, I cannot see, I cannot see.

5. By way of pity and of love, come thou and settle my affairs,
For means of succor without thee, cannot see, I cannot see.
To poor Irāki show the road that leads to thee, for in this world
A mortal more distressed than he, I cannot see, I cannot see.


Among the earliest Arab poetry we find not only Kasidas describing the wild life of the desert, but also Ghazals of remarkable beauty. Antara, one of the most famous pre-Islamic poets, was the author of many charming lyrics. The following little extract from one of these may give the reader an idea of Bedouin hyperbole. A warrior thus sings to his lady:

"Nor did I forget thee while spears fell around where I stood,
And the points of the White Indian blades were all wet with my blood;
And fain I had kissed the bright swords of my enemies vile,
For they flashed like thy teeth when thy lips go apart in a smile!"

It was at the court of the great Sultan Mahmud, above mentioned, that Firdausi flourished, the Homer of Iran and author of the great Persian national epic, the "Shah Nama," or "Book of Kings." Without being the actual founder of the epic style in Persian, Firdausi was one of the earliest and by far the greatest of its exponents. The poet form adopted for narrative verse in Persian is technically known as Mathnavi, i. e., the double (rhyme), so called because each half-couplet rhymed, and, unlike the Arabic Kasida and Ghazal, the rhyme varied in every couplet. Now, the epic was essentially Persian in origin and growth, and quite foreign to Arabic poetry, as was also the Rubay, which had its origin about the same period, as the mouthpiece of a new school of thought. Although, as has been already observed, the Persians were quick to adopt the religion and language of their conquerors, their national spirit was not of the sort to die out, or be obliterated by the new spirit of Islam. In fact, it may be affirmed that the Persian, in thus readily acquiescing in the new order of things which was imposed upon him, allowed his national

sentiments and instincts to suffer far less damage than would have been the case had he offered a protracted outward opposition to Mohammedanism. Moreover, if Persia was quick to accept Islam, she was equally quick to set her own stamp upon the new religion. Firdausis' great Epic was a reaction in favor of the old order, but one executed under the very auspices of Mohammedanism. The poet put into verse the old legendary history of Iran, and brought his narrative down, through historical times, to the defeat of the last Sassanian king at the hands of the Arabs. He took his materials from what he could find of the old books of the Zoroastrians, and from the legendary tales of public storytellers. The example set by Firdausi was soon followed by many poets, who sought for inspiration in his verse, and took for their subjects those episodes which had received only brief treatment at the hands of the master: none of them, however, approached him in genius and power.

In his old age, Firdausī, moved perhaps by a religious sentiment, wrote a romantic poem entitled "Yusuf and Zulaykhā”also in the Mathnavi form-which told of the loves of Joseph and the wife of Potiphar, basing his narrative on that version of the Bible story which Mohammed had incorporated into the Koran. In this style of composition, however, he was surpassed by his later imitators, and Nizāmi (died in 1203), who composed five famous romantic poems, holds the undisputed field as the greatest master of the romantic school. The last great representative of this school was Jāmi, who lived in the fifteenth century, and who may be regarded as the last poet of the classic period.

It is not within the scope of this article to deal with the engrossing subject of Persian mysticism, known as Sufism. The "mystic" movement in Mohammedanism began in the eighth century, and although it was in the first place an essentially orthodox movement, it took rapid growth in the direction of free-thought and heterodoxy when transplanted to Persian soil. The first great exponent of Sufism, in its fully developed form, was Abū Sāīd ibn Abi l-Khayr, who was born in Khorasan in 968, and who died in 1049. He was the first to compose that style of epigrammatic quatrain with which readers of Omar are now so familiar. The quatrain, therefore, was even more than the epic, an original Persian product, both in form and spirit.

Thus we see that there are four principal types of poetical

[blocks in formation]

composition used by the Persians; namely, the Kasida, the Ghazal, the Mathnavi and the Rubay. Of these, the two former were borrowed from the Arabic, while the two latter were of Persian invention. Most of the earlier poets confined themselves to one of these styles, but in later times a single poet would try his skill at all of them, as did notably Sadi and Jami. The collected Kasidas, Ghazals and Rubays of a poet are called his Dīvān, and in manuscripts they are usually placed in this order, each style being, in its turn, arranged alphabetically according to the rhyme. One cannot, however, speak of the Dīvān of Firdausi or of Omar, because they confined themselves to one style and did not write Ghazals. If a poet wrote romances and ornate prose as well as the other styles, his collected works then receive the name of Kulliyat, or "Complete Works."

Few, probably, among the reading public who are interested in Omar have any conception of the state of the book-market, or of the manner in which literature is diffused, in Persia. Some may picture to themselves a state of affairs similar to that in Europe, with a certain admixture of Oriental slowness and lack of method; while others may suppose that Persia can boast of no book-market at all, beyond the casual buying and selling of manuscripts.

Now, in some parts of the East, printing, bookselling and journalism have especially during the last ten or twenty years-been developed to a comparatively high degree. Both Constantinople* and Cairo possess excellent printing presses, which are responsible for numberless books and journals; nor are these two capitals the only Oriental towns which boast of a printing press. Nevertheless, Persia is at the present day entirely dependent upon lithography for her native production of books and journals-which are very rare. At the beginning of the present century a press with movable types was set up in Tabriz, at which a certain number of books were printed. The effort, however, met with no encouragement, and had shortly afterwards to be abandoned. The unpopularity of type-printing in Persia is due to two principal causes; firstly, the straightness of the lines offends a Persian's artistic sense; and, secondly, in printed books the character of the letters is entirely lost. The same cause which leads a Persian to esteem so highly great calligraphers, makes him deplore all absence

• The first book printed in Constantinople bears the date of 1719.

of character in a type-printed book. What most delights him is a well-written manuscript, and he takes the same delight in the copyist's work as we take in the touch of an old master. Failing this, he contents himself with a lithograph, which is usually the fac-simile of the writing of some fairly good scribe, and has, at any rate, a human element about it.

It is hard for us to credit the vast amount of attention that is paid to calligraphy in the East, where men of learning devote years to its acquirement, and their best days to making artistic copies of classical works. Although this art is dying out to a certain extent, owing to the cheapness of lithography, a man may even to this day in Persia become as famous for his writing as a poet for his verses.

In every big bazaar a certain number of shops are set apart for the sale of books. In these one finds the bookseller-in his long, dark, outer mantle and his high, black, lamb's-skin hat-seated on the floor, surrounded by his little stock-in-trade. The front of his shop is open, like a butcher's, while his books are either arranged in shelves against the three walls, or in heaps upon the floor. His collection usually consists of lithograph editions of Korans, school-books, favorite poets and historians, but the assortment is limited. Besides these, hidden away in a corner, he often has one or two manuscripts which he has either bought as speculation or is trying to dispose of for a friend.

The number of standard works that have been lithographed in Persia is comparatively small, and a great many important compositions-both poetry and prose-to this day exist only in manuscript. Many Persian classics owe their release from this state of relative oblivion to the efforts of Indians and Europeans. It will, doubtless, surprise some to hear that the works of many Persian poets who enjoy celebrity among their own countrymen have been neither lithographed nor printed.

The ordinary family library consists of a copy of the Koran, in Arabic, the works of one or two poets, a dictionary and a book of general history. Large libraries are rare. Books are not kept, as with us, in an upright position, but lying on their sides, one above the other, with their backs to the wall, while the title of the book, when indicated at all, is written across the front edge.

During the present century Persia has produced three poets of a high order of genius, Kaani of Shiraz, Yaghmã of Khorasan

and Mirza Serush of Ispahan, all of whom, in clearness of diction and elegance of style, fall very little short of Hafiz and Sádi. In fact, so great was Kaani's command of language, and so musical his ear, that some of his poems surpass in charm anything else in Persian literature. Besides these real poets, Persia has produced and continues to produce numberless poetasters, whose chief aim is to imitate as closely as possible the classic standard, and who care little or nothing for originality in either thought or treatment. Every Persian is more or less of a poet, and has a natural instinct for rhyme; perhaps no language lends itself more readily to versification. Apropos of the readiness of Persians in extempore verse, countless tales are told of men and women who composed verses, quatrains and even Ghazals just before their death. Very well known are the lines composed by the popular minister of Fath Ali Shah, when the executioners suddenly came and told him that his master-who feared his minister's extreme popularity-had ordered him to be put to death at once: "Such is the way of the world; first it covers one with honors, then it smothers one with thorns. Fate, the Juggler, many tricks of this sort loves to use."

The actual state of Persian literature cannot be called flourishing. Its latest development is in the direction of popular plays, chiefly comedies: but, though they offer interesting specimens of modern colloquial Persian, they are merely translations from the Turkish of Trans-Caucasia, and do not, therefore, represent any literary activity in Persia.

If education has become more general in Persia than formerly, it is certainly less serious: if one can find more people who know how to read and write than would have been possible in former times, on the other hand one rarely encounters serious study of any branch of science, unless it be in the direction of philosophical speculation.


« السابقةمتابعة »